The Rice Alliance has named its second annual cohort. Photo via Getty Images

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship has announced the 17 companies joining its second accelerator — and the program didn't have to venture very far for some of them.

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator named the early- to mid-stage startups that will participate in its second annual class — five of which are based in Houston:

  • CLS Wind is developing a unique system to lift any size wind turbine component to any height using smaller-capacity cranes, an efficient, safe and economical solution to a lack of available high-capacity cranes and vessels.
  • Dsider is developing a low code solution for climate minded organizations to visualize and analyze their carbon pathways to plan, prioritize and operate sustainably and economically.
  • Emission Critical is developing carbon accounting and management software as a service to help enterprises solve end-to-end carbon footprinting with minimum effort
  • NanoTech is developing advanced materials to help businesses and individuals solve fireproofing and thermal insulation challenges with new world particles.
  • Pressure Corp is developing waste pressure power systems to help midstream gas companies solve how they reduce emissions by providing the technology, capital and expertise required to achieve their environmental, social and governance goals.

The 10-week program kicks off at the university’s Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum in September, and concludes on Demo Day on Nov. 17. While mostly virtual, the program will welcome the complete cohort to Houston three times throughout the accelerator.

The full cohort of companies — which come from seven states and four countries — has already collectively raised more than $54.5 million. Over the 10 weeks, the companies will receive support and mentorship to help them raise funding, launch pilots, win adoption into the marketplace, and more.

The 2022 cohort specializes across the spectrum of clean energy, including advanced materials, digital technology for energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, geothermal energy, hydrogen, waste heat to power, wave energy, and wind energy. The rest of the cohort includes:

  • Atargis Energy, based in Colorado, is developing an innovative twin hydrofoil-based wave energy converter technology combined with a proprietary feedback control system that combines real-time sensors, predictive algorithms and machine learning to make possible the first predictable, low-cost, utility-scale baseload electricity sourced from ocean waves for utilities and other electricity providers.
  • Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Eden GeoPower Inc. is developing electrical reservoir stimulation technology to help geothermal, petroleum and mineral resource developers solve issues with low-permeability reservoirs by effectively increasing permeability in a way that uses less water and emits less CO2 than traditional stimulation methods.
  • FuelX has developed solid-state hydrogen power systems to help transportation manufacturers meet their customers’ growing performance requirements by using high-energy-density systems that outperform batteries and other pure hydrogen solutions. When coupled with a green hydrogen raw material, FuelX systems provide zero-carbon power.
  • GeoGen Technologies — a Canadian company — is developing a new kind of geothermal that allows oil and gas companies to convert end of life oil and gas wells to economic geothermal.
  • Durham, North Carolina-based GOLeafe uses organic materials and non-energy or capital-intensive equipment toproduce graphene oxide — the world's strongest, thinnest and most conductive material — through a process that’s 10 times more cost efficient and eco-friendly using readily available materials such as hay, sugar and wood chips.
  • LiNa Energy is commercializing safe, sustainable, solid-state sodium batteries that contain no lithium or cobalt.
  • Luminescent, based in the United Kingdom, is building an isothermal expansion heat engine for waste heat recovery along gas transmission pipelines.
  • Nobel improves fuel efficiency for gas-fired power plants with drop in, reliable supersonic combustion technology.
  • Quino Energy — based in California — produces low-cost, long-lifetime aqueous organic flow batteries for grid storage applications. The charge is stored in specially designed organic molecules called quinones, which are produced from cheap chemical precursors in a proprietary, zero-waste process.
  • Viridly, based in Texas,is developing geothermal power plants with patent-pending generator technology alongside geothermal greenhouses to provide the first financially viable way to confidently deliver and scale up the development of baseload geothermal electricity.
  • Another Canadian company, Volta Technique’s compressed air storage and management technology addresses the unpredictable and ever-increasing cost of energy for large commercial and industrial electricity users while enabling decarbonization of the electricity grid through higher integration of renewable energy.
  • Wootz, another Texas company, is developing a scalable manufacturing process to produce sustainable, cost-effective, high-performance carbon nanotube materials at commercial scale to replace or enhance traditional metallic conductors.

Twelve companies participated in Class 1 of the Rice Alliance Clean Energy, which was delivered virtually last summer. The 12 startups in that inaugural class have raised a combined $6.5 million in funding, identified and launched pilots, met investors, hired staff and moved their offices to Houston.

The program is supported by founding sponsor Wells Fargo and supporters: BP, Baker Botts, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Halliburton Labs, Equinor, Microsoft, NRG, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, Shell Ventures, Sunnova, TotalEnergies, Tudor Pickering Holt, Canadian Consulate, TC Energy, Phillips 66, and ENI Next.

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Sujatha Kumar of Dsider, Andrew Bruce of Data Gumbo, and Payal Patel of Softeq. Courtesy photos

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from software to blockchain — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Sujatha Kumar, founder and CEO of Dsider

Sujatha Kumar discusses her decarbonization data company on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

For years, Sujatha Kumar has been consulting with companies to help them make decisions, including ones that affect decarbonization. For Kumar's clients, data is power when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. That's why she started Dsider, a decision intelligence platform with a suite of software tools to equip energy businesses with the data they need to make informed decisions.

"We are creating transparency so that companies can have a digital footprint of how decarbonization can happen, and allowing them to make decisions along the way that are always going to be towards decarbonation and not forgetting that everything has an economic trade off," she shares on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

Kumar shares more on Dsider's potential impact on decarbonization and how she has observed changes in Houston's innovation ecosystem on the podcast. Click here to read more and stream the episode.

Andrew Bruce, founder and CEO of Data Gumbo

Andrew Bruce, CEO of Data GumboAndrew bruce's growing Houston blockchain startup has raised $4 million to go toward supporting sales. Photo courtesy of Data Gumbo

Data Gumbo, an industrial smart contract blockchain company, has expanded overseas with a new office in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, that will give the company new regional business opportunities to continue international adoption of its blockchain network.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and broader Middle East present outstanding opportunities for our company. We are committed to putting down roots, and to the long-term growth of a Data Gumbo workforce in the Kingdom and beyond,” says Andrew Bruce, CEO of Data Gumbo in a news release.

“Establishing a regional office provides companies in the Greater Middle East with increased access to our smart contract network, GumboNet," Bruce continues. "The more the network grows, the more value it delivers to local and global members, as well as investors. We look forward to expanding our presence to best support demand and set the standard for how industrial organizations do business by guaranteeing transactional certainty in commercial relationships.” Click here to read more.

Payal Patel, director of the Softeq Venture Studio

Payal Patel has a new gig. Photo courtesy

Softeq Development Corp. has named Payal Patel as director of the Softeq Venture Studio, a startup accelerator that provides business mentoring and engineering development resources. Patel will oversee programming and operation for the studio, and she will help in in selecting startups for investment as principal of the fund.

“I’m excited to join the talented team at Softeq," she says. "Having been a part of the Houston tech and startup community for a few years, I see a niche our team can fill. We aim to do our part supporting founders by providing capital, advice, and helping level up the community." Click here to read more.

Sujatha Kumar discusses her decarbonization data company on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston innovator: The future of decarbonization is data-driven decision making

houston innovators podcast episode 123

Decarbonizing the energy industry would be a lot more successful if companies had the tools to more efficiently and accurately track their carbon footprint.

Sujatha Kumar has created that tool with her startup Dsider, a decision intelligence platform with a suite of software tools to equip energy businesses with the data they need to make informed decisions. Kumar, founder and CEO, has spent years consulting companies on finding operational success and now is using her Dsider platform to streamline results.

"When I looked at how companies made decisions — especially in the decarbonization world — I realized there was a big gap to be filled, and that's how Dsider was born," Kumar says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

"We are creating transparency so that companies can have a digital footprint of how decarbonization can happen, and allowing them to make decisions along the way that are always going to be towards decarbonation and not forgetting that everything has an economic trade off," she continues.

Dsider, a Greentown Houston member company, is targeting the energy industry specifically — oil and gas, petrochemicals, utilities, etc. She says Dsider has the potential to bring decarbonization decision making to other industries as well. For now, Dsider has a few customers and is actively seeking out a few more.

"One of the first few things we want to do is get traction with a handful of customers," "We have the rigor and we are able to make sure the products we have brought to market are really something that is going to land well with customers. From that, we want to see the growth accelerator."

This year, Kumar hopes raise seed funding and grow her team and customer base. She still is working with companies as a consultant with her business, Ayatis LLC. She says the two roles go hand in hand — Dsider is a tool she can offer her consultancy clients.

"We live in that world today where a single role isn't enough for us," Kumar says. "The consulting angle has really helped me think through the customer journey. ... That has really created the Dsider and product journey. In order for me to grow Dsider, I can't balance the consulting that I used to do, so all of my consulting will be geared towards helping customers decarbonize and leveraging Dsider to do that."

Kumar shares more on Dsider's potential impact on decarbonization and how she has observed changes in Houston's innovation ecosystem on the podcast. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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3 Houston innovators to know this week

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Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.

Report: Amid difficult market, Houston sees uptick in VC funding

seeing green

Houston-area startups saw a healthy increase in venture capital funding during the first half of 2024 compared with the same period last year, new data shows.

In the first six months of this year, Houston-area startups attracted $760.55 million in VC funding, according to the latest PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. That’s up 17.7 percent from the $645.99 million collected in the first six months of 2023.

Keep in mind that these figures might not match previously reported numbers. That’s because PitchBook regularly adjusts data as new information becomes available.

In light of various factors, such as the ongoing hype over artificial intelligence, fundraising will likely continue to be challenging for U.S. startups as a whole, according to Nizar Tarhuni, vice president of institutional research and editorial at PitchBook, a provider of VC data.

Nonetheless, Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), points out that American venture capital “is finding its footing in 2024.”

Across the country, VC funding for startups in the first half of 2024 totaled $93.4 billion, up 6.5 percent from the $87.7 billion raised during the same period last year, according to the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor.

“With steadily increasing deal values, especially across early-stage investments, more first-time financings, and increased crossover investor participation, [the second quarter of 2024] was a good one for VC,” says Franklin. “Now it’s up to founders, investors, and regulators to support, rather than stifle, these green shoots as the market heads toward a recovery.”

In the second quarter alone, VC funding in the U.S. jumped from $35.4 billion in 2023 to $55.6 billion in 2024. That’s an increase of 57 percent.

By contrast, the Houston area’s VC funding went in the opposite direction. Startups in the region scored $231.79 million in VC during the second quarter of 2024 vs. $333.17 million during the same period a year earlier. That’s a drop of 30 percent.

So far in 2024, Houston-based Fervo Energy dominates VC hauls for startups in the metro area. In March, the provider of geothermal power announced it had secured $244 million in funding, with Oklahoma City-based oil and gas company Devon Energy leading the round.

Fervo’s latest pot of VC represents more than 30 percent of all Houston-area VC funding during the first six months of 2024.

Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo, says the $244 million investment enables his company “to continue to position geothermal at the heart of 24/7 carbon-free energy production.”

Fervo says the latest VC round will support development of its 400-megawatt geothermal project in Beaver County, Utah. The Cape Station facility is expected to start generating power for the grid in 2026.

High-tech Formula 1 cars rev engines toward Houston for unique event

lights out and away we go

Houstonians with a passion for Formula 1 racing have to drive to Austin — and spend a lot of money — to get up close to the innovative cars that reach speeds over 200 miles per hour. That’s all going to change in September.

The Bayou City will be the next host of a Red Bull Showrun. Held on Saturday, September 7 at Discovery Green in downtown Houston, the free event will feature one of Red Bull’s championship-winning RB7 car flying down the streets around the park.

Best of all, it’s completely free to attend. Of course, those who want a great view of the action may purchase $50 grandstand tickets that went on sale this morning.

Held previously in other cities without F1 races such as New York, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., Red Bull uses the Showrun to bring the sport to new fans. Although the sport traces its history to the ‘50s, it has seen a boost in popularity thanks to Formula 1: Drive to Survive, a Netflix show that offers a behind-the-scenes look at key people on each of the 10 teams.

Red Bull’s Formula 1 team is riding particularly high at the moment, having won the Constructors Championship in both 2022 and 2023 on the strength of its car and driver Max Verstappen, who has won three consecutive Drivers’ Championship titles and currently leads the championship this year, too.

"The best part about any Red Bull Showrun is being able to bring Formula One to some fans that have already seen it, but more importantly to some who have never seen Formula One before," David Coulthard, a former Red Bull Racing Grand Prix driver who won 13 races during his 15-year career, said in a statement.

Held from noon to 2 pm, the RB7 car will make a number of trips on the streets, doing doughnuts and burnouts and generally being very fast and loud. In between those runs, the Showrun will feature appearances by other Red Bull athletes and a DJ battle between local legends DJ Mr. Rogers and Chase B, who is the longtime DJ for hip hop star Travis Scott. A complete lineup of appearances will be released at a later date, according to a release.

Fans will also have access to a fan zone with food vendors, F1 racing simulators, Oracle Red Bull Racing merchandise, and other free activities.

For more information, including how to purchase grandstand tickets, visit the event’s website.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.